• Note to readers: This blog has been expanded into a column running Friday, April 13 •
It seems that Councilwoman Suzanne Tucker might get some support in her fight in keeping secret her e-mails with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from a very powerful place — the White House.
It seems that White House operatives used unofficial e-mail accounts to do business with the likes of lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff so they were not captured by the White House's automatic archives. The conversations were conducted through out-of-house accounts because those, they reasoned, wouldn't be subject to searches by prosecutors and investigators in the case of criminal proceedings or lawsuits. (Read about it here.)
Sounds similar to the Tucker situation, in which she has conducted business concerning her role as a City Councilwoman and liaison with Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond through a private e-mail account, then claimed that the e-mails were exempt from public records act requests because they came from a private e-mail account. (Read about the law carefully here and you'll see that these e-mails clearly fall under the law's scope.)
When it comes down to it, public officials may still conduct public business on a private e-mail account. Or on a private cell phone. Or via private snail-mail letters. That might be an everyday matter of fact or convenience, but when this happens as an attempt to hide dealings from the public (or when used as an excuse to accomplish the same thing) the public trust is violated. This is a proven way for people in power to try to sidestep rules that try to keep them from engaging in underhanded behavior. Politicians who execute this "artful dodge" have no business serving as elected representatives.
It's usually a compliment when you say a City Council member conducts themselves like the public servants in the White House. In this case, it's an indictment of an official who refuses to level with the public they represent.